• Head Lice FAQs


    Every once in a while, a fewcases of lice pop up in the schools.  We do not have an infestation at Longfellow, however, there have been an increased number of questions coming to the nurse’s office regarding lice.  Hearken to author Terry Goodkind who says, “Knowledge is a weapon.  I intend to be formidably armed.”  Arm yourself with these FAQs about lice:


    Q: What are head lice?

    A: Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live close to the humanscalp. They feed only on human blood. Head lice can lay eggs, called nits, that hatch and cause itching anddiscomfort but do not spread disease.

    Q: What do head lice look like?

    A: When looking for head lice you may see several different forms:eggs, baby lice and adult lice. The eggs, also called nits, are tiny, teardrop-shaped eggs that attach to the hairshaft. They are often found around the nape of the neck or the ears. Nits may appear yellowish or white, and can look similarto dandruff. Nymphs, or baby lice, are smaller and

    grow to adult size in one to two weeks. Adult lice are the size ofa sesame seed and tan to grayish-white.

    Q: How do you get head lice?

    A: Head lice are mostly spread by direct head-to-head contact – forexample, during play at home or school, slumber parties, sports activities or camp. Head lice move bycrawling. They cannot jump or fly.

    Q: Can sharing clothing or personal items spread lice?

    A: Head lice cannot survive for very long off the head.  Therefore it is not common for head lice tospread by contact with items such as clothing, hats, scarves, coats or otherpersonal items such as combs, brushes or towels.

    Q: Who is at risk for head lice?

    A: Everyone is susceptible to head lice. While most transmissionsoccur in the home and community settings, head lice are often detected by school nurses or staff.Infestations are not related to cleanliness. In fact, head lice often infest people with good hygiene and groominghabits.

    Q: Are head lice dangerous?

    A: Head lice are not dangerous. They do not transmit disease, butthey do spread easily. If head lice are found in your child’s hair or scalp, it’s important to talk to yourschool nurse, pediatrician or family physician to get appropriate care and information.

    Q: How do I know if my child has head lice?

    A: Finding a live nymph or adult louse on the scalp or in the hair isa good indication of an infestation. They are most commonly found behind the ears and near the neckline at the backof the head.  Head lice move quickly and avoid light, so they can be hard tosee. Misdiagnosis is common.Therefore, you may want tocontact your school nurse, pediatrician or family physician if you suspect an infestation.

    Q: My child’s classmate/friend has head lice.  Is my child at risk?

    A: Head lice move by crawling and cannot jump or fly. It is notcommon for lice to spread through sharing clothing or personal items, such as combs, towels or toys. The greatestrisk of transmission is between people who have had direct head-to-head contact when one person has an active caseof head lice.

    Q: My child has head lice. What do I do next?

    A: It’s important to talk to your pediatrician or family physicianright away to get appropriate care. There are a number of available treatments, including new prescriptiontreatment options that are safe and do not require combing out nits from your child’s hair. You may want toremove nits for aesthetic reasons. Family bed linens and recently used clothes, hats and towelsshould be washed in very hot water. Personal articles, such as combs, brushes and hair clips, should also bewashed in hot soapy water or thrown away if they

    were exposed to the site of infection.

    Q: What treatment options are available? Are they safe?

    A: There are a number of available treatments. You should talk withyour child’s pediatrician or family physician to discuss the best option for your family. Here are some thingsto consider in selecting and starting treatment:

    Follow treatment instructions. Using extra amounts or multipleapplications of the same medication is not recommended, unless directed by ahealthcare professional.

    Resistance to some over-the-counter head lice treatments has beenreported. The prevalence of resistance is not known.

    There is no scientific evidence that home remedies are effective.

    New treatment options that are safe and do not require combing outnits are available by prescription. You may  want to remove nits for aesthetic reasons.

    Q: Is my child experiencing discomfort or pain during activeinfestation?

    A: Many people may not experience symptoms. Some common symptoms ofhead lice include1:

    • Tickling feeling on the scalp or in the hair

    • Itching (caused by the bites of the louse)

    • Irritability and difficulty sleeping (lice are more active in the dark)

    • Sores on the head (caused by scratching, which can sometimes become infected)

    Q: Does my entire family need to be treated for head lice?

    A: All household members and other close contacts (including friendsor relatives who recently stayed in the home) should be checked for head lice. Anyone showing signs of active infestation should also be treated.

Last Modified on November 4, 2019